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One of the great divides in personal finance is whether you buy your coffee out or save money by making your own.

Count me in the group that regards coffee, lattes, expressos, cappuccinos, macchiatos, cortados and such as an affordable luxury, not an extravagance that costs people an opportunity to meet financial goals like home ownership or a comfortable retirement. Moreover, I wonder about the people making coffee at home. Are they doing it right?

There are about a dozen ways to make coffee at home and I have tried almost all of them. What I’ve learned is that no matter what you spend on beans or ground coffee, your technique and choice of equipment has a big effect on how good a cup you get.

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I recently came across a couple of posts about coffee-making that are worth sharing. One lists the three biggest mistakes people make with their coffee equipment, including not cleaning your brewing gear. The other describes the brewing equipment and tools used by coffee pros, including a cheap but quite effective rig called the AeroPress.

My wife and I live close to half a dozen coffee spots, and I buy coffee from some of them from time to time. Mostly, I brew at home using a coffee dripper called the Hario V60. Very cheap to buy, a bit labour intensive and reliable for producing an excellent cup. I buy beans from local cafes and run them through a burr grinder as needed.

Spending on coffee is not a crime of personal finance. But spending that produces bad coffee? Now, that is a problem.


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Rob’s personal finance reading list

Best cashback credit cards

RewardsCanada.ca has just updated its list of the best credit cards for people who prefer cashback as a reward. At the top is a new name – American Express Cobalt, which I highlighted recently as a card ideally suited to people who spend a lot on food and want to earn travel reward points. Thanks to a recent tweak, Cobalt is now worth a look for those who like cashback rewards.

Buying a home is throwing away money, too

Straight thinking for millennials on renting versus owning. It’s fine to want to own a home for lifestyle and potential financial gain, but we need to get away from the idea that renting is just throwing money away.

All about Amazon Prime

Prime is the second most popular subscription service, behind Netflix. “You’re paying to become part of a system that is purpose-built to keep you paying, forever,” this critical look at Prime says.

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More rental houses for families

A developer is spending $1-billion to buy single family homes and convert them to rental properties. One of the big criticisms of renting is the lack of choice for families. But some experts question whether the cause of affordable rents is well-served by this announcement.


Ask Rob

Q: I’m building our emergency fund to approximately six months of household income and we have saved $20,000. To do so, we have been contributing to a TFSA in the RBC Investment Savings Account, yielding very little. I have considered putting this $20,000 down as prepayment against our mortgage, from which we could always access money via a home equity line of credit if needed for job loss or health emergency. Trying to understand if I’m not considering all the risks.

A: Using a HELOC as an emergency fund can work, but you’ll pay interest of 2.45 to 3.45 per cent and you’ll have to make minimum monthly interest payments. There’s a lot to be said for having cash in a high rate savings account. You can get as much as 1.25 to 1.55 per cent on these accounts, as of late June.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.


The money-free zone

If you’re sheltering at all this summer, here’s a list of crime movies set in the sweltering city. Do The Right Thing, Rear Window, West Side Story and more. I’m taking this opportunity to remind you what a good song Summer in the City is. Same for Summertime by Janis Joplin. And Hot Fund in the Summertime, by Sly and the Family Stone. And Summer Side of Life, by Gordon Lightfoot. I could go on.


Tweet of the week

One of my favourite personal finance voices is Ramit Sethi, who offers this quick summary of how he seeks financial success in life. No, not home ownership.

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In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance-related stories

More Rob Carrick and money coverage

Subscribe to Stress Test on Apple podcasts or Spotify. For more money stories, follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and join the discussion on my Facebook page. Millennial readers, join our Gen Y Money Facebook group.

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